I will start this off by saying that I had high hopes for our trip to St. Pete Beach. It was the first of three stops we were making on our week long trip across the South, and since Bob and I both love beach vacations, we thought we’d naturally love it, right? Wrong.
St. Pete Beach was undoubtedly the worst city that I have been to. Ever. I have been to many tourist trap beach cities before, like Myrtle Beach for example, that have more charm, lovelier beaches, and better food than that of St. Pete Beach.
We touched down in Tampa first thing that morning, then picked up our rental car to make the short drive to Saint Petersburg. We were all itching for a good meal and so upon the recommendation of my family from down south, we headed to the nearby Chick-Fil-A for some grub. It’s a shame that I have to admit that this was my favorite meal in St. Pete, but it was. I don’t typically eat fast food, so I wasn’t exactly excited to go there in the first place. I always say that if it can be served in a drive-thru I don’t eat it — except for Starbucks and Panera, since they have a commitment to higher quality, sustainably sourced ingredients. However, when in Rome, right? So I ate as deep southerners do and indulged in a spicy chicken sandwich. It was surprisingly yummy, as was their lemonade, but I’m sure many of you already know that.
For dinner that night we went to a place called Crabby Bill’s. I had cautioned my family against eating there as it had some less than stellar Yelp reviews, but my family wanted seafood, the restaurant was willing to accommodate our large group of 28 people, and everyone ragged on me for putting all my faith in Yelp anyways. So I obliged, and I had a mediocre fried grouper sandwich and fries which were bland and forgettable. We ordered hush puppies as an appetizer, which most of our table enjoyed, but I thought they were too strong in their onion flavor; I prefer sweet hush puppies but that was a personal preference. We ordered some frozen drinks as well. Having been a bartender myself when I was younger, and thus heckled by desperate patrons asking for a heavy pour, I try not to criticize an establishment too much when they don’t make a “strong” drink. But our drinks tasted like the sugary sweet virgin drinks I ordered on a cruise with my family back when I was 7 and thought it was cool to walk around with a piña colada. (AKA, we tasted no alcohol, got no buzz, and abstained for purchasing anymore overpriced virgin slushies from their restaurant.)
The next day was spent at the beach in the morning, at Chick-Fil-A in the afternoon (I was not as impressed the second time around), and at a wedding in the evening. The wedding took place at the Grand Plaza Hotel right at the beach on St. Pete, and although the food wasn’t the greatest, they seemed to have their act together and their bartenders were really great. (They also had a great beach bar on their property called Bongos that had some awesome cocktails.)
By day 3, we were all pretty sick of St. Pete. Almost everyone we encountered there was rude, which was a harsh realization for us as we’re from a town that is notoriously warm and welcoming. The condo we were staying at was also run by the biggest jerk ever; it was so bad that Bob and I considered getting a hotel room — but all the hotels on the major street were booked up. (Except icky motels that sketched me out.) Which brings me to my next point: the hotels in St. Pete were really mediocre. The nicest hotel on the strip with the Don Cesar, a Loew’s hotel, but besides that there were not many choices for places that were not strip motels or didn’t look stuck in the 1990s.
The positive part about our location was that we got to enjoy private beach access, which was fun and relaxing for my family to enjoy. We paid to go stand up paddleboarding one day at the Don Cesar, and 5 minutes after our session began we saw some lightning and they had to postpone our appointment. Alright, no big deal. Bob and I figured we’d just go to lunch and then meet back up with my family for our rescheduled session when the weather passed. We went to a Mexican restaurant called Monarca’s on Gulf Boulevard. The experience started positively with being brought chips that reminded me of Chipotle’s (just missing some of that great lime juice), but it quickly went downhill when they brought us queso that I’d be willing to bet came right out a jar, and nachos that were so gross they were inedible. Our waitress didn’t come back to our table once — not to fill our drinks or ask how our meal was — it was incredibly frustrating. I wanted to talk to a manager, but we were antsy to get back on the beach so we just paid the bill and left. (Side note: what Mexican restaurant doesn’t have a liquor license? Monarca’s margaritas are premade with a frozen mix, not tequila…) When we got back to the beach we were told that our session had to be canceled because of an impending storm (that never ended up happening), so we never got to stand up paddleboard or go on a banana ride at Don Cesar. Major bummer. Fingers crossed they actually refunded our charges like they said they would.
That night we went to another chain — Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Company — and I was so disinterested in any more mediocre food that I only tagged along to enjoy family time. I ordered a Bubba’s Blue Hurricane, which ended up being a really good cocktail, but I didn’t order a meal. I saw an appetizing warm chocolate chip cookie a la mode dessert so I ordered that to share with Bob, but it tasted straight out of a box and the ice cream was already gross and melted when they brought it to us. Yuck.
The highlights of our stay were the wedding and reception with my family, floating and frolicking on the beach with Bob and my brother, seeing my baby sis build her first sandcastle, and meeting some friendly neighbors who lived in the neighborhood in which we were staying. (They were legitimately the only friendly people we met on our trip — even if we didn’t like the restaurant they recommended.) Oh, and driving out of Saint Petersburg city limits felt pretty nice too. 😉
All in all, St. Pete Beach was a disappointing city for people like Bob and I who enjoy culture, class, company, and a little bit of luxury. I’d only ever go back under the circumstance of another family event like this one. The next morning we packed up and headed to the next city, which is one that we’ve absolutely fallen in love with. If you follow us on Instagram you already know where that is, but if not you’ll just have to wait and see… 🙂